It was a trip to the mall like any other, but recently, Brittney Johnson discovered the importance of talking about her body positively in front of her daughter.
The 27-year-old mom of Columbia, Mo., says she was at a local Target earlier this month to try on bathing suits with her four-year-old daughter Payton.
In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Johnson says as she was sending bikini selfies to her girlfriends, she noticed her daughter on the side imitating her by also trying on bikini tops.
“I stopped for a second to see what she would say and when she turned to the mirror, she said, ‘Wow I just love cheetah print! I think I look beautiful! Do you think I look beautiful too?!’ When it hit me that she only says what she hears, what she sees. I tell her that she is beautiful every single day,” the mom wrote on Facebook.
“I am so proud that something positively representative of myself and my parenting has been so relevant to parents everywhere and has given some women the confidence to say, ‘As of today, I am done talking bad about myself,'” she tells Global News.
“Mommas relate to it, people of all different shapes and sizes relate to it, and so many have reached out to me with kind words.”
Why healthy body image is important
Johnson says talking about body image, especially to children at that age, is crucial.
“If they have a strong influence in their lives, encouraging them to be themselves, then they will feel more comfortable that way. Our voices become their inner voices and I always want that to be an encouraging one for my daughter,” she continues.
“I tell Payton the truth about her body, about how it works, about creating boundaries for herself and others, and it has built trust from her. I also tell her that she is intelligent, beautiful and worth love, and that has created a confidence in her that I hope no one will ever be able to break.”
How to talk about our bodies
In Johnson’s change-room scenario, she adds she could’ve easily changed the narrative.
“I have the power to say, ‘Wow, I have really gotten fat this year,’ OR, ‘Wow, I love this coral colour on me!’ And those are the words burned into my daughter’s brain,” she writes.
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“And when it comes to body image, be an example. I am not a size zero. I never will be. I have big thighs and a huge rump and for some reason, the middle of my body gets more tanned than the rest? But this body made a whole other body. I am strong. I am able. And I am happy. And as my daughter gets older, and she faces judgment and criticism, I will always remind her that the girls who look the prettiest in a two-piece, or a body suit, or a freaking Snuggie, are the ones who are happy.”
Social media and body image
Dr. Jillian Roberts, child psychologist and associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Victoria, says we should also talk to our children about the pressures of “looking good” on social media.
“The pressures — with the barometer of popularity measured by ‘likes’ — has left young people more and more desperate to take a good ‘selfie,’ she tells Global News.
“Looking thin is equated with beautiful; and beautiful with popular; and popular with love, acceptance and belonging. The result is a whole generation of young people struggling to achieve what is defined to be beautiful by social media standards.”
She adds language is equally important.
“As the adults in children’s lives, we can show them that beauty is more than skin deep. We can teach our children that beauty is defined by the goodness in your heart and by the way you treat the people around you.”